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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Omar Abdulrahman returns to training to give Al Ain's Asian Champions League hopes a boost

Garden City club go into next week's quarter-final second leg against Al Hilal with game in balance after goalless first leg

Omar Abdulrahman played in the 0-0 first leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-final against Al Hilal last month. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Omar Abdulrahman played in the 0-0 first leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-final against Al Hilal last month. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Al Ain expect captain Omar Abdulrahman to be available for next week’s crucial Asian Champions League clash against Al Hilal.

The UAE playmaker, the Asian Player of the Year, missed the national team’s final two World Cup qualifiers this past week after picking up an ankle injury before the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final on August 29. Abdulrahman did play in the match, which finished 0-0.

The midfielder was then sent to Barcelona to help with his rehabilitation, sitting out the UAE’s games against Saudi Arabia and Iraq, but returned to training with Al Ain on Wednesday night. He trained away from the main group, as did centre-back Ismail Ahmed.

However, both should line up in the second leg against Hilal on Monday at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

The return of Abdulrahman in particular will be a boost for Al Ain, with the midfielder widely recognised as their most influential player. He is joint-top scorer in this year’s Champions League, alongside Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk, with seven goals, while he sits joint-second in the assists charts with six.

Al Ain are attempting to go one better than last year, when they lost 3-2 on aggregate in the final to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. The Garden City club are the only Emirati side to have won Asia’s premier club competition, taking the title in the first year of the tournament’s rebrand in 2003.

Hilal represent formidable opponents, though, with the Riyadh side the reigning Saudi champions. Finalists in 2014, they are unbeaten thus far in this year’s Champions League.